March 21 – Village throwing me a going away party
March 24 – Leave my village and head into Shinyanga town to stay the night
March 25 – 29 – Travel to Morogoro and stay with Nelly
March 30 – Travel from Morogoro to Dar and begin COS logistics
April 3 – Officially close my service as a Peace Corps volunteer
April 8 – Travel from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Casablanca, Morocco and meet up with my friend Olivia
April 18 – Travel from Tangier, Morocco to Barcelona, Spain with Olivia traveling around there until April 22 when she leaves and I continue to travel around Spain solo
April 30 – Travel from Madrid, Spain to Oslo, Norway to travel solo
May 10 – Travel from Olso, Norway to Dublin, Ireland to meet up with my mom
May 23 – Travel from Dublin, Ireland to Blackfoot, Idaho finally making it back home
The above itinerary is a condensed version taken from my planner looking at what the next two months of my life were supposed to be like. Everything planned and paid for, time already taken out of people’s busy lives to meet me and spend time traveling the world, seeing amazing places, all before coming back home; the perfect end and simple transition back into American life after finishing what seems like the fastest two years of my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Aside from the obvious disappointment of not being able to execute this trip that myself and other have anticipated and planned for two years, the true heart break in this whole shit storm was the rash manner in which I had to leave my village.
On March 12, when I posted my last blog, I planned on still having close to two week left in my village. That Saturday we had planned to go to Mwanza with the secondary school students so we were busy busy preparing for that. Friday after school the students ran home to grab their things and get ready to go, later that night we all met back up at the school and cooked dinner which consisted of freshly harvested potatoes and peanuts. That night all 23 girls packed in like sardines and spent the night at my house and all 22 boys stayed with the teacher at Frank’s house. Saturday we spent the entirety of the day in Mwanza; watching the students excitement as we made the drive from our village to the big city was the most fun/rewarding experience I’ve ever had. The day was spent walking around the mall, checking out the fish market down at the docks, and finally taking a small boat ride around Bismarck Rock in Lake Victoria, oh and taking millions of pictures. We didn’t get back home until 11pm but luckily we had dinner waiting for us so we ate and then the majority of us called it a night and headed back to my house to go to sleep. Sunday, the girls woke up and left as they wanted and after the last one was gone I spent a good chunk of the morning cleaning my house and, after an ironic conversation with my mom about possibly not having time to pack my stuff the following weekend, I packed up my house and got my bags ready to go; foreshadowing??
Monday March 16th I woke up and was hit with the news. My last week in Tanzania I can only explain as living in survival mode. After reading the email and rereading it and then rereading it again the news of our evacuation hit me like a brick wall. With tears streaming down my face I crossed the compound and entered the labor ward to find the nurse doing her morning cleaning duties. After seeing me she immediately stopped what she was doing and asked what was wrong, for a long while we just sat there while I cried not even being able to form the words to tell her that literately at any minute Peace Corps could call me and tell me that they were beginning the evacuation and that I needed to make my way to town. When I was finally able to get the words out she hugged me and told me that it would be okay, that we can never know what god has is store for us and that I will alway be welcome there because it was my home. I was heart broken to think about having to leave in such a haste; leaving everyone and everything that had become my home without the time to say goodbye. I spent the rest of the day running around to all the places close enough to reach in a timely manner to tell those people what was happening and trying to begin my goodbyes. Later Monday evening, after we found out that I needed to be in town on Wednesday, the village government told me they would do what they could to reschedule my going away party, as that is when many people who do not live in my village had planned to come and see me one last time. While I appreciated their efforts it was a sad defeat.
Tuesday evening the President of Tanzania issued a lockdown ordering all schools, nonessential businesses, and many transport options to close for one months time, along with these closures he ordered all mass gathering be postponed which meant my party would have to be cancelled. When my village government called me Wednesday morning to tell me the news I was again heart broken, not because I cared that I would not be receiving a party send off, nor was I upset that I would not be partaking in the delicious feast they had planned, although this was disappointing. Instead, I was crushed to think about the time and planning the community put into the party, the money that was spent, and people I would not see; the people I would not get the chance to say goodbye to as a result of this event being cancelled. I would got get the chance to hug those last few babies, I would not get to give my favorite students one last noogie, or thank those who fed me when they thought I needed to eat more. Leaving so abruptly would not do justice to the time I spend there, occupying that space, sharing in community members lives.
My village government was rebellious enough that although mass gathering had been banned and technically they had all been called to the district office to have a safety meeting with other government officials from various villages, they threw me a small, secret, but absolutely perfect party. They cooked a small meal, we took pictures, had a few laughs, and they left me with a few gifts, best of which being that each of them stood up and told a small story of us working together and thanked me for everything I had done, and for that I am beyond thankful to them. I left my village Wednesday evening with a heavy but full heart thinking that although it wasn’t the way I had planned my service to end I was still thankful for the time I had. Thursday morning we made our way to Morogoro which is where my host family lives, unfortunately we got in very late and I was unable to say goodbye to them as well. Friday we arrived in Dar and it was a mad dash to close bank accounts, receive medical forms to complete in the States, and tie up other administrative duties. Saturday morning Health/Ag 18’s that were still around met at the office and participated in the ceremonial bell ringing together and 30 minutes after 11 we were being whisked from the hotel and dropped at the airport, all together as volunteers but individually alone contemplating the rashness in which we were exiting.
When we got the news about being evacuated I was very sad and many people’s reactions were, “why are you sad, it was almost time for you to leave anyway,’ or ‘well at least now you get to come home that’s exciting.” Sure I was almost done and while I was happy to come home in two more months, leaving a place you have lived for 2 years, somewhere that has become your home, with people that have become like family is already hard enough then, being forced to leave without even getting the chance to say goodbye really just drives the knife deeper.
I have always said I was an extremely lucky volunteer. First it was because of my proximity to town and my housing amenities (you know the superficial stuff), then it was because I was healthy and had no problems that forced me to have a more difficult service like some other volunteers. After about a year it turned into me being really lucky because of the projects that were beginning to fall into my lap and although they were trying they always ended up turning out okay. Now, having the chance to look back on the entirety of my service, I can say I was a lucky volunteer because of where I ended up and the people I was lucky enough to be surrounded by. Leaving was difficult but I hope it was not goodbye; instead I hope it will just be a see you later. Si kwaheri, ni tutaonana.